It’s the small things that matter!

When people reflect on their expenses and wonder what the best ways to save money might be, they often think that they should cut their big expenses. These big expenses are of course very important and when you want to save (more) money it is useful to see whether these big expenses can be lowered. However, it’s often all the small expenses taken together that make a difference. Most of the time they have a bigger impact than we think!

A very nice example is people’s lunch to work. I don’t know if this is a relevant example for all of you, but for most people in Belgium it is. In Belgium, from what I ‘ve seen, most people buy their lunch at work day after day. I for example work in the city centre of Leuven. During lunch, most of my colleagues go in the city and buy a sandwich, salad … instead of bringing something from home. However, having to buy a sandwich every day costs a lot of money. So when going to work I always try to bring my own lunch. At the end of the month it is so much cheaper (or you spend less money). Also my boyfriend takes his lunch with him (most of the time I make it for him. I like to make his sandwiches and they are tastier when made with love :)).

At my boyfriend’s work, some people even made a remark about him taking his sandwiches with him everyday (he and his boring sandwiches). So he made a quick calculation to show them the difference. Here’s the calculation based on Belgium prices in euro. Feel free to share your calculation with the prices in your own country or to tell more about the lunch habits in your country.

  • A normal workweek is 5 days
  • Imagine buying a sandwich every day for 3-4 euro
    • 3,5€ x 5 days
    • 17,5€ a week for just a sandwich
    • 70€ a month
  • often people also buy something to drink, a soda or a coffee (not all companies offer employees free drinks or coffee at work)
    • 1,5€ x 5 days
    • 7,5€ a week
    • 30€ a month
  • And of course you can’t get through the day without a cookie (I can’t anyway)
    • 1€ x 5 days
    • 5€ a week
    • 20€ a month
  • Everything taken together you get
    • 70€ + 30€ + 20€
    • 120€ a month
    • 1440€ a year for one person!

So in one year you spend around 1440€ for buying your lunch everyday. Maybe less, maybe more, depending in you eating habbits. This is a lot of money. Certainly when you are with two people who buy lunch every day, that’s 2880€ (it’s a nice citytrip or vacation). And yes it’s true, most employees receive a meal voucher of 5-7 euros per day for buying lunch, but isn’t it nicer to spend that money on other things than spending it every day on buying lunch?

Now how much does it cost to bring your own lunch, drinks and cookies (this is of course not for free and also has a price). You can for example take leftovers with you or your own sandwiches. My calculation is for bringing your own sandwiches.

  • It takes one or two breads a week
    • 2,4€ x 2 breads
    • 4,8€ a week
    • 19,2€ a month
  • Stuff to put on your bread/sandwich
    • around 6€ I think
    • 24€ a month
  • Drinks
    • 0,55€ (if you buy for example if you buy a pack of 6 soda cans in the store) x 5 days
    • 2,75€ a week
    • 11€ a month
  • Cookies
    • 0,40€ (Also if you buy a big cookie box in the store) x 5 days
    • 2€ a week
    • 8€ a month
  • Everything taken together you get
    • 19,2€ + 24€ + 11€ + 8€
    • 62,2€ a month
    • 746,4€ a year

This is almost half! It’s a rough calculation, but I think it really shows what a difference it can make. The prices are estimates because sometimes you buy something cheaper or more expenive, nothing at all, a lot, or leftovers from last nights dinner …. I just wanted to show what a difference it makes. I have to admit that I sometimes also buy lunch at work, or buy a cookie when I didn’t take one from home. But I try to limit it, because before you know it you’ve spend a lot of money on food. This is also why it helps to keep track of all your expenses, big and small  (see post https://fionasfrugallifestyle.com/2015/05/15/what-are-your-spending-habits/).

lunch

Here you see my lunch :). I ‘m also very proud of my reusable bread wrap. I never use aliminium foil anymore, and it’s so much more convenient than a lunch box.

Another example that small things matter is buying your daily cup of coffee on the go. Here in Belgium you see more and more people arrive at work with their take away cup (a habit flown over from the states?). I admit that I also do it once in a while but I try to limit this as well (because I can’t handle that much caffeine 🙂 and of course because it costs a lot). There again, if you do the math you see that buying a cup of coffee every day can cost a lot on a yearly basis. That’s why it’s often a good idea to get up a bit Koffieearlier and take the time to brew your own coffee at home :), or just kick the caffeïne habit altogether.

So what are your lunch habits at work? Or do any of you have other examples of small costs that at the end of the year really sum up, and that you can easily lower in order to save more money? Please let me know!

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